Grilled and Marinated Goat Cheese Wrapped in Grape Leaves
We might as well call this recipe, by Chef Mauro Pando of Grace’s Table in Napa, “a few of our favorite things.” It features goat cheese, grape leaves, a baguette, and, to top it off, cherries. If you’ve ever looked at all the fresh, young grape leaves while driving around the valley and thought to yourself, I wonder how they would look on my plate, then this recipe is for you.
Right now, with all the vineyards leafing, is the perfect time to prepare this dish. We are also, not coincidentally, in the midst of cherry season. It’s always goat cheese and baguette season at TTG HQ.
If you haven’t used grape leaves for culinary purposes, there are generally two ways to go about it. You are probably most familiar with the jarred variety, in which leaves are picked and packed in brine then shipped. Here in Napa we are lucky enough to have access to fresh leaves (if they aren’t yours, do please ask permission though), and at this time of year there are plenty of young, tender leaves which can be used fresh.
To prepare fresh grape leaves (such as those called for in this recipe): Pick tender medium-sized leaves. Blanche them in boiling salted water for 5 seconds then immediately plunge into ice water to cool. Remove and pat dry. Drizzle with a little seasoned rice vinegar and extra virgin oil — 50/50, just enough to coat the leaves. You can keep these leaves in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Grilled and Marinated Goat Cheese Wrapped in Grape Leaves with Balsamic Bing Cherry Compote
By Chef Mauro Pando of Grace’s Table
9 oz. Laura Chenel’s Chèvre Goat Cheese
Fresh grape leaves (the same jarred leaves you would use for Middle Eastern dolmas would also work if you don’t have access to fresh vines)
Baguette, sliced in rounds
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Salt and pepper
For the Marinade
1 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed
1 teaspoon dried lavender, ground
1/2 teaspoon pink peppercorns
1 teaspoon fennel fronds
1 teaspoon fresh oregano
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
For the Balsamic Roasted Bing Cherry Compote
1 pint Bing cherries, pitted
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon oregano, chopped
To prepare Bing cherry compote: Halve the pitted cherries with a sharp knife and heat a large skillet to very hot. Add vegetable oil and cherries to the pan and let them sizzle a bit. Add the salt, pepper, herbs vinegar and extra virgin oil. Take it off the heat to let them cool then refrigerate. (When cool, they could be stored in a tight fitting container for up to a week.)
Combine marinade ingredients and mix well. It should be the consistency of a wet paste. Form the cheese into 3 oz. pieces, 1 inch high, flattened and round. Put on top of your leaf (or leaves depending how big they are), add one teaspoon of marinade on top of the cheese and cover by pulling the edges of the leaves up around the cheese so all the ends of the leaf are on one side in the middle. Repeat this step for as many bundles of marinated cheese as you would like to grill. Let these bundles marinate in the refrigerator overnight.
To grill marinated cheese bundles and prepare final dish: On the hottest part of the grill, put the open edges of the bundles down on the grill until they char, then flip over gently and grill for just several more seconds. The hardest part is getting it off the grill. With your tongs, rock the cheese forward and slip a spatula under the cheese to lift it to your platter, and reserve.
Slice a baguette into rounds, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then grill to slight char. Place one bundle on each grilled baguette round. Open bundle at top (like a baked potato) spoon Bing cherry compote on top, and serve.
Chef Pando will be demonstrating how to prepare this recipe at the Chef’s Market in Napa this Thursday at 6:30 p.m. If you have a question for him about the recipe tweet it to @napadowntown using the hashtag #chefsmarket